BBA: Birmingham’s existing business growing at a steady rate

As an economic development organization, we have a saying: Before we travel anywhere in the world to recruit a new company to Birmingham, we better walk across the street to find out how the companies here are doing.

The Business Retention and Expansion program of the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) is one component of the overall economic development strategy in our effort to create jobs, capital investment and better quality of life in the Birmingham seven-county region. The Business Retention and Expansion program is a business executive visitation program for companies of all sizes, from startups to the region’s largest employers, based on industries in the BBA’s Blueprint 2020 strategic plan.

Through onsite, one-on-one visits the BBA economic development staff works with companies to provide information on growth opportunities and understand issues that may hinder growth for a company. The goal of the visits is to identify expansion opportunities and potential threats, while developing a strong working relationship with the existing business base, assisting them with information, resources and relationships to grow their business.

Based on visits with local executives in 2016, companies in the region are doing well, with both sales and employment hiring showing positive trends. From our count, existing companies within the Birmingham region announced more than 1,200 new jobs and $460 million in capital investments last year – representing 68 percent of all announced jobs and 85 percent of all announced capital investment in 2016. The final figures will be released this spring in our 2017 Economic Growth Report.

During 2016 the BBA economic development staff visited with more than 100 existing companies in the region, representing at least 12,559 employees in the region. Here is a summary of what we found:

  • 26 percent of the companies visited in 2016 reported plans for expansion in facilities or equipment, while 74 percent had no plans for physical expansion.
  • Adding new jobs in 2016? 44 percent said yes, 39 percent said no and 18 percent said maybe.
  • Of the 44 percent of companies that reported plans to add jobs, more than one-third expected to add up to five new jobs.
  • 44 percent of the companies visited reported they were growing, 43 percent reported they were stable and 13 percent reported a decline.
  • Top-performing industries visited were IT Analytical Instruments, Life Sciences, Automotive, Chemicals, Aerospace and Financial and Insurance Services.
  • Manufacturing, particularly metal and machinery manufacturers, were less optimistic in 2016 about company growth.
  • Barriers to growth reported by companies were: Punitive regulations, physical conditions of facilities and equipment, inadequate supply of qualified job applicants and crime.
  • Top workforce concerns reported were lack of skills, education, work ethic, drugs/alcohol, turnover, workforce attraction and retention.

The Business Retention and Expansion program’s goal is to help these companies overcome hurdles in many ways. We work to connect them with the appropriate contacts in local or state government to help expedite a process; connect them with investors who can provide funding or access to capital for expansion and growth; provide small business support through BBA’s Spark Mentoring program; support companies in the region with workforce development initiatives to attract and retain talent; or educate them on the services of the Alabama Workforce Training Center, which provides training for existing company employees in basic manufacturing skills, leadership development, industrial maintenance, forklift, overhead cranes, welding and OSHA 10 certifications, just to name a few.

And most importantly, we help these companies celebrate their successes, one company at a time, through a communications and marketing program that can reach local and national audiences.

How can we help you and your company? Contact Mark Brown, at mbrown@birminghambusinessalliance.com, to find out more about the BBA’s Business Retention and Expansion program.

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